RPG a Day: A toast! To learning, travel, and adventure!

17. What’s an RPG item you have owned for a long time but not played?

I have had The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries (Eric J. Boyd Designs) since it was first released in 2007—ten years and three days, to be exact. I had the perfect group to play this back in Seattle, and I thought it would make a wonderful back-up game to play between our various regular games, whenever nobody had anything ready to run.

Unfortunately, it sat on my shelf for a few months, then I lost my job and we had to move back to California for my new employment, and I never got to play it. It’s not by far the oldest unused item on my shelves, but it’s the one I still want to play!

By the way, even though the original cover is not my cup of tea at all (ha-ha), the inside layout is excellent. A Jubilee Edition was released later and is still available; I liked that cover better.


Zeppelin Attack! and other weekend fun

Zeppelin Attack!I confess, I did very little that was actually productive this weekend. I needed the R&R—it’s been hectic at work. The weekend went thus: Friday: play in Edmund’s playtest of my game, the War of Ashes RPG. It’s run via Skype and I have little effort to make since I’m merely a player, not the game master. Saturday: get a haircut, have pot-luck lunch and a game of our DramaSystem series, “To End All Wars,” then go out for teppan with a friend. Sunday: go see Guardians of the Galaxy for a second time on the big screen, and try a game of Zeppelin Attack! since we just got our copy this week along with the Doomsday Weapons expansion.

Zeppelin Attack! can be played with 2 to 4 players, but it was just Edmund and I. We picked our villains at random, I drew Jacqueline Frost and Edmund got Walking Mind. We did many things wrong which we corrected in play, but it’s clear that this is a game that will take a few tries to learn properly. We didn’t really start seeing the synergies between cards until the end. I say “end”, but really we just had to call it and stop because it was getting late. Nevertheless, it seems like there is a lot of tactical play possible. It’s more limited with just two players, I think it will be more fun with three or four because then you have to split your attack and defence strategies.

Overview: Strange Tales of the Century

Strange Tales of the Century: coverMy replacement Kindle has arrived so I picked up my e-reading list where I had left it off, which included Jess Nevins’ Strange Tales of the Century (Evil Hat Productions). This book is just stunning; I suspect the reason we have heard so little about it is that it’s overwhelming with goodness.

As publisher Fred Hicks described during the Fate Core Kickstarter funding campaign when STotC became a stretch goal, what was planned to be a 60,000- to 70,000-word resource turned into a 200,000-word tome! The sheer amount of material is staggering and even intimidating when it’s time to review the book.

The Author

Author Jess Nevins is both an über geek by inclination (I say this with a sense of fellowship!) and a research librarian by profession, so he collects amazing stacks of fascinating resources which he shares generously. I first became acquainted with him and his work when he was creating lavish annotations to comic book series I was fond of, like Alan Moore and Gene Ha’s Top Ten, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc. Jess would research the rich subtext and allusions, and share his notes online. When he first started publishing some of this material in book form, I was delighted that more people would get access to his clever work.

With his long-standing love of pulp and encyclopedic knowledge of the vintage years of the genre, he has written many fascinating articles on the hidden treasures of the genre, dispelling some of the clichés we have come to associate with pulp literature—particularly the notion that pulp lacked diversity. So Jess was the perfect person to write Strange Tales of the Century for Evil Hat, a resource book to expand the scope of their best-seller game Spirit of the Century. Continue reading “Overview: Strange Tales of the Century”

Big Bad Con Kaleidoscope

Big Bad Con logoI barely know where to start unpacking after another amazing edition of Big Bad Con.  I have no idea how Sean Nittner and his team managed to top last year’s, but they did.  They have now moved up to anticipating wishes, like Mystic Pizza Delivery on Al Amarja which delivers because their psychics know you’re about to order, or the crime prevention unit in Minority Report who arrest criminals before they commit crimes.

The Bare Bones

(Already posted on social media, but I’ll consolidate here  Edited to link to Edmund’s game summaries.)

Day 1 (Friday)
Ran a game in Rob Wieland’s CAMELOT Trigger setting using Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) system.  My decision to start with a “pre-credit” sequence in the big climactic battle then jump back in time to a few days earlier didn’t one click for one player, but the others really seemed to like it.  [Edmund’s recap]

Played in my husband’s FAE in a WWI pulp adventure called “An Excellent Vintage.”  Coincidentally, all players were women, Edmund got all the chicks.  We ended up sacrificing ourselves and blowing up with our stolen German airship to prevent a plague engineered by the Kaiser’s scientists from devastating Europe.  A pulp game that ends up with an airship blowing up can’t go wrong.  [Edmund’s recap]

Day 2 (Saturday)
Opened with Games on Demand, where I offered to run either a FAE Muppet Show game or an octaNe game.  Players really wanted to try FAE but weren’t so keen on Muppets so I ended up using FAE on the fly to run the octaNe adventure!  Second time in so many days using Ryan M. Danks’ Fractal Adventure method, worked amazingly well considering this was all improvised.  I think this is the most on-the-fly conversion I’ve done in my entire life, and we had a blast.  [Edmund’s recap]

Played in +Ezra Denney‘s Habemus Papam game which was great fun (the murderer who was eliminating the competition managed to get elected pope, of course.)  My cardinal earned the stunt “Master of Sarcastic Prayer.”

Ran +Emily Care Boss‘ “Colony Wars” series pitch for Robin Laws’ DramaSystem (from Hillfolk, Pelgrane Press), my first actual play contact with the system.  Had six amazing, creative, cooperative, forgiving players put up with my fumbling.  We created the pilot episode for a science fiction drama series on the outer edge of the Asteroid Belt where the main tensions were the unexplained loss of contact with another new colony under construction, and the unrest following a massive influx of immigrants headed for that colony and now stuck on Ithaca station.  [Edmund’s recap]

Day 3 (Sunday)
Three more fantastic games, all hosted by Edmund:

Fiasco: 40K: All four of us were Warhammer 40,000 fans so we had a blast (heheheh, blast…) creating the fiction.  Two secret Eldar cultists, Brother Zealot and Brother Rhakum, the latter vying for a promotion with Technopriest and unsanctioned psyker Electrolux, who in turn had a demoted acolyte for a Servitor, in which was inset a reliquary containing the Bones of the Blessed First One which really turned out to be wraithbone coveted by Brother Zealot.   And an unlimited supply of (defective) frag grenades…  [Edmund’s recap]

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple: Responding to a letter from the Scribing People requesting help against those who would steal their sustenance, the tales they feed on, and leave them nothing but unhealthy songs and poetry to nibble.  [Edmund’s recap]

Fate of Aldis, a Fate Core game using Green Ronin’s setting from Blue Rose; only two player characters (a Rhy-Cat and a Vata’sha both of the Sovereign’s Finest, a.k.a. magical talking cat and Night elf as elite troubleshooters), but picture-perfect best planning and execution of a rescue raid I’ve ever seen in a game.  Neither of us combat characters but fiendishly stealthy, and we still took on a small warband.  [Edmund’s recap]

Absolutely amazing people and amazing gaming all weekend.  At some point, I need to post some of the high moments because there were many worthy of memory, and some reviews.  But since I actually have Fate-related work to do and there were several Fate Core or Fate Accelerated games in my schedule, in my next post I will tackle some of the insights on Fate I received this weekend.

First encounter with SotC brings back memories

On Monday night I finally got my first introduction to Evil Hat Productions’ game Spirit of the Century. There were six players: John R., Aaron, Brian J., the other Brian, Edmund, and I, and the GM was Peter. As usual, a really fun group (and it’s great that we’re getting a bunch of new people!) Mark dropped by after work to listen in for a while, but didn’t play because he was too tired. Peter had printed very nice booklets of the important rules from the SRD free rules, character sheets, and cheat sheets.

We had done the first three steps of character creation online, and finished by creating the “novels” at the table. This portion of the game is enjoyable enough, but time-consuming (and noisy), which is a bit of a problem for our Monday night games that can only run from 6:30pm to 10pm. It was almost 9pm by the time we were done with character creation, and only because we hurried a bit. This is more suited to a mini-series or campaign, where it would be quite reasonable to spend an entire session solely on character creation. The book contains tips for “pickup games” that would probably have helped, but with everything else going on I didn’t get a chance to read them in detail. I don’t know if anyone else in the group did.

Our characters included:

* Konrad Becker, all-American action tinkerer (Brian)
* The Incredible Indelible Professor Thaddeus Hendershot, genius scientist (Brian J.)
* Ngo Dinh Dien Jean Baptiste “The Crusader”, Man of Mystery (Edmund)
* Brother Birkshot Clemensun, Ordo Malleus secret agent kicking ass for the Lord (Aaron)
* Danny Dugan, ace pilot (John R.)
* Andromeda Brixton, woman of a thousand faces (me)

So we had a little less than an hour and a half to get familiar with the system and run through a little skirmish (I did get to clobber a thief with my parasol). Summary: We started in media res in pursuit of a thief who had stolen a precious object from the Century Club premises in Washington, D.C. Most of the group ran after the thief through the zoo (including the polar bears’ cage), but I opted to immobilize another suspicious character. After catching both men, we discovered that they were two different thieves trying to steal four (or five) rare jewels: the Eye of the Jaguar, a brooch or clasp stolen from the Century Club, which we recovered; the Fangs of the Jaguar, a pair of earrings stolen from a rich lady at a nearby party, which we returned, and the Heart of the Jaguar, location unknown.

Naturally, this is a little short to have definitive comments on the system. What really struck me about it — and Edmund shared my impression — is how similar to Theatrix it was. In fact, except for the (enjoyable) flourishes in the process of character creation, it looked almost exactly like playing Theatrix with Fudge dice. Although Theatrix was intended as a diceless game where success was decided by the needs of the story, the dramatic value, and comparison of scores, it also came with an optional dice-rolling system. Fudge dice hadn’t been invented yet, but if you used them to add to skill scores, what you’d get would almost exactly be SotC.

Theatrix was one of my great loves. Back in 1993, it was the first game I ever played that made story so prominent and important, rather than world-exploration, character levelling, wealth accumulation, or tactical combat. Sure, I had played games that had a bit more story to them, but this was the first that brought it front and centre. In addition, I had the chance to play several demos with the authors of the game, and all of them ran awfully fun events. Later on, I used Theatrix to give a little more structure to Castle Falkenstein and was happy with the result, even though I didn’t run it very many times.

Nowadays, I look back fondly but see some warts. In retrospect, there were a few too many levers, pulleys, dials and controls to really let the story flow. In environmental engineering geek terms, we restored the river to a more free-flowing condition, but had to keep several engineered controls such as flood gates, levees, and armoured banks, while I aspired to free-flowing meanders, backwater pools and wetlands. (Yes, that’s how my brain works!)

At first glance, I get the same feeling from SotC: likable system, laudable effort, probably works very well for people who are more comfortable with “engineered controls”, especially if this is their first foray into story-based games coming from a “traditional” RPG background. And I look forward to really giving it a test drive; but ultimately, it’s probably too clunky for someone like me and many of the people I regularly game with. Looking at my character sheet, I knew in advance that I would forget to use two-thirds of this stuff most of the time. With six people, we had 60 Aspects to track at the table! This makes me suspect that the game probably works best with four players or so. Still, 40 Aspects would be a handful anyway.

So I did find it to be a charming walk down Memory Lane, and I really want to play again, but it’s probably not going to hit my sweet spot in the long term.